GEAR TO GET
The latest phase of the digital revolution is at hand: Here are three of the best new options on tap.
The Easy-to-Use Hybrid
Canon PowerShot SD980 IS, canon.com, $330
For those still building their touch-screen skills, this model's 12 traditional buttons—the most of any shown here—serve as training wheels. Large icons on the three-inch LCD are easy to interpret and make contact with on the first try—even for not-so-nimble fingers—and 22 beginner-friendly automatic shooting modes (for foliage, the beach, sunsets, and even aquariums) take the guesswork out of selecting a setting.
The Solo Traveler's Secret Weapon
Samsung DualView TL225, samsung.com, $350
Never hand off your camera to a sketchy-looking stranger again: Samsung's 12.2-megapixel gadget puts the perfect self-portrait within reach, thanks to a 1.5-inch front display that shows a timer countdown and live video feed for framing your shot. The 3.5-inch LCD touch panel on the back vibrates slightly to confirm each selection, and tracing an "x" pattern over an image deletes an unwanted photo. Bonus feature: An animated clown (he even juggles!) can be summoned to the front screen to coax a smile out of camera-shy kids.
The Flashy Fair-weather Friend
Nikon Coolpix S70, nikon.com, $350
With only one physical control—the shutter button—Nikon's snazzy 12.1-megapixel number relies almost entirely on its energy-efficient, 3.5-inch OLED screen, which requires a delicate touch that can't be negotiated with, say, gloved hands. Apple fans will find the interface intuitive, as many of the actions used to operate it—swiping a finger across the screen to scroll and pinching to zoom out—mimic those of the iPhone.
Editor's Pick: Covert Carrier
Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home bag, crumplerbags.com, $80
"With a messenger-style shape that doesn't attract thieves and padded compartments for two SLRs, plus lenses, batteries, and memory cards, this tote is the perfect camera bag. I raved so much while testing it that my wife bought me one for Christmas." —Michael Mohr, Associate Photo Editor